Midseason hopes usually die right about now, as viewers realize once again that February truly is the pits of television. (That’s okay; February can be the pits just about everywhere, in all things.) The new series have been dreary, lately. Things will get a little worse before they get better.
Case in point: ABC’s mystery puzzler “Zero Hour,” premiering Thursday, wastes no time putting your brain in a blender for its cancel-me conspiracy smoothie.
Anthony Edwards, a stranger to series TV since he left “ER” years ago, cashes out his retirement dignity as Hank Galliston, the editor of Modern Skeptic, a magazine that debunks urban legends, myths and quack science. The first clue that something is wrong here is that Modern Skeptic has a fancy New York loft office with a full staff.
Hank’s wife, Laila (Jacinda Barrett), runs an antique clock repair and refurbishment shop, because that’s what gorgeous women do. During a lovey-dovey lunch break spent with Hank browsing a Brooklyn art market, Laila buys an intricate and mysterious-looking clock. Later that afternoon, she calls Hank in a panic — someone has broken into her shop and [click].
She’s been taken, in the Liam Neeson sense of the word. With help from his dullard editorial assistants, Hank launches his own investigation, in a “Da Vinci Code” sense of the word, as he uncovers little riddles and clues contained in the clock Laila purchased. An FBI agent (Carmen Ejogo) joins the hunt, in the hands-on-sexy-hips sense of the word, and they trot off to the Arctic, where they find a Nazi U-boat frozen in ice. In the pilot episode (the only one critics got to see), viewers learn that “Zero Hour” has to do with a holy brotherhood of apostles reincarnate, who last tangled with the antichrist (or perhaps antichrists, plural) during the rise of the Third Reich.
For you to accuse me of spoilers by telling you any and all of the above, there would actually have to be something to spoil. “Zero Hour” was rancid when it got here. The dialogue is stilted and almost entirely expository. The plot is like receiving a coloring book that’s already been colored. The grand mystery here fails to ignite interest.
For a brief bit, I tried to enjoy “Zero Hour” as accidental camp, something so bad that it’s actually entertaining. That didn’t work either.
Also Thursday, AMC forges further into reality programming with two new series. One is called “Freakshow” (premiering at 9:30 p.m.), about a crew of circus folk who live in California, which looks about as interesting as it did back in the grungy ’90s of Lollapalooza, the last time we were fascinated by hipster human oddities. I’ll pass, thanks.
Following that, “Immortalized” is a half-hour competition series that pits taxidermists against each other in a fight to the death, by which I mean the main attractions (the critters) are already dead. It seems as though taxidermy has been having a trend moment while nobody cared, existing somewhere in the cultural territory between your uncle’s trophy den and the art of Damien Hirst.
“Immortalized” divides its competitors into “traditionalists,” who aim for lifelike preservation, and “rogues,” who concern themselves with artistic depictions of mutations and animalistic encounters. They are judged by two experts, including Paul Rhymer, who was a Smithsonian taxidermist for 25 years.
It’s sad to see a subject as intriguing as taxidermy get stuffed with so many outdated tropes of television contests. Bombastic music cues and promises of excitement fail to persuade the viewer that “Immortalized” isn’t just a dead skunk in the middle of February’s road, stinkin’ up to high heaven.
(one hour) premieres Thursday
at 8 p.m. on ABC.
(30 minutes) premieres Thursday
at 10 p.m. on AMC.